Birthdays for us are all about creating new memories. This year in the lead up to William’s 5th birthday, we asked him what he would like to do and his response was a surprise party! This was pretty exciting as it’s the first time he has asked for a party and we’ve never done one for him before (except the time we did a cash smash for his first, which he absolutely hated!).
So following from my earlier blog on “Our Minimalist Approach to Birthdays”, I’m excited to share with you how we celebrated William’s 5th birthday this year.
I know my kids love a good interactive show. We have taken them to kids’ music concerts, puppet shows kid’ science shows and they absolutely love it, so I knew this was the way to go. Having looked at the options around Canberra, I decided to book the party at the Canberra Reptile Zoo (having never been before), which included a live reptile show! I knew he would love it as reptiles are a close relative to dinosaurs (the dinosaur obsession is still going strong) and I was going to have an experienced kid’s entertainer!
Once the theme was decided, everything else seemed to come together quite nicely. Our four gifts to him were somewhat theme related:
Something to play – Ostheimer Crocodile
Something to wear – A ‘Wild’ outfit
Something to read – Really Remarkable Reptiles by Jake Williams (such a great book!)
Something to share – The Grimm’s Pyramid.
The party was going to be the hero of this year’s birthday as is the gift of experience, which William will remember. Even though William wanted a surprise party (i.e. the location was the surprise), I actually involved him in the whole process of planning the party. At five, I trusted that he could make decisions and knew what he wanted, which is a really big part of how I try to parent, by trusting and following the child.
I asked William what he would like at his party and this was his answer (and what I organised for him):
- Friends. We wrote a list of his friends that he would like to invite (approx. 10 kids).
- Party Food. He decided on chicken nuggets and chips plus lots of fruit. Outsourced.
- Cake. Chocolate cake is life. Again, he got to choose his own cake, he didn’t ask for anything particularly fancy (despite having been to other parties with PJ masks cakes or other commercial kids shows). He just wanted something that was undoubtedly a “delicious, scrumptious chocolate cake”.
- Balloons. William chose some silver and blue balloons with the number 5 and some stars. This is what I’ve always done in the past, so perhaps he is just used to it.
- Presents from his friends.
From this experience, I learned that giving your child a part to play in planning their special day makes the experience more fulfilling and less stressful. When children are given age-appropriate choices and decisions, we signal to them that we trust then and respect their opinions as an individual and I think it’s a great thing. My son’s own idea of a perfect party only had 5 ingredients, all of which are super achievable.
The only thing I suggested to add to William’s list was party favours, to thank his friends for celebrating his birthday with him. We stayed away from giving lollies and plastic one-off party favours. Instead, we gave our little party guests each an eco-friendly handmade wooden animal. We bought some hessian fabric and wrapped them up individually with a thank you note, which William helped me with.
THE DAY OF THE PARTY
The party was a success! Firstly, because the reptile show was so well done. The children and parents (including the little toddlers) were all so engaged. The children met and learned about so many cool reptiles including:
- a green tree frog named Booger who was named after his resemblance coming out of a sneeze
- participated in a turtle race with two turtles named Pancake and Speedy
- took turns to hold a carpet snake named Boofhead (even I had a turn)
- plus many other reptiles including a blue tongue, a Shingleback and a metre-long freshwater crocodile!!!
Here are some pics…
Secondly, because we outsourced so many elements, like the venue and catering. Chris and I were able to fully enjoy the party with our kids and our guests instead of stressing out.
Lastly, and I know you guys are curious is the presents. All our close family and friends, who know of our approach to toys, gifted William thoughtful gifts that we really appreciate, including lots of books! A number of parents from preschool kindly asked beforehand, what our preferences were with gifts (assuming they have had similar experiences). Our response was that “William would really appreciate having his mates at his party. If his friend would like to choose a small gift, I’m sure William would love the gesture too. Our preference is no plastic toys or gifts that contribute to landfill. We are trying to minimise toys and plastics at home, so it would mean a lot for your support. If you are after some ideas, a book, some art supplies or even a small note so William can save it for something special he wants for later, would all be great. Those parents who didn’t ask did choose some plastic gifts, which we kindly accepted. Except for the Lego, those will be donated and William agrees to it, as this has been out approach to toys for many years.
Thank you for reading and hope this was interesting and gives you some ideas for your children’s future birthdays. I’d love to hear some ideas about what contributed to a really great party for your children.
I can’t get enough of this content. I absolutely love this approach. It’s so much more than anything we could buy our children. Thanks for sharing.